Last night, Mike Huckabee was interviewed on ABC News, and he gave this standard-issue tribute to our nation's uniqueness:

I still remember my father taking me to meet the governor of Arkansas when I was eight years old. And he said, "Son, you may live your whole life, and you may never get to meet a governor in person." And to think that, you know, his son could become one. Only in America."

It's a wonderful thing that in our country, a person born to modest circumstances can rise to become a political leader, governor of a state and perhaps even president. But the idea that this is possible "only in America" is just ridiculous.

Using the repository of all human knowledge, I was able within a few minutes to come up with a bunch of world leaders whose parents were not earls or dukes. New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark's father was a farmer, and her mother was a schoolteacher. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's father was a Lutheran pastor. Say what you will about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but he wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth -- his father was a blacksmith. Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg's father was a steelworker. And President Evo Morales of Bolivia was himself an honest-to-goodness peasant!

I'm not arguing that social mobility isn't an important part of the American story -- indeed, as progressives one of our key goals is making sure that the opportunity for such mobility is as widespread as possible. But isn't it about time we put aside the idea that opportunity is something that exists here and nowhere else?

That isn't to say there aren't plenty of things about which you can say "Only in America!" Our choices in television programming, for example, blow any other country's out of the water in both quantity and quality. Our celebrity gossip industry is the envy of the world, and nowhere else are there so many breakfast cereal options (though if anyone wants to join me in a campaign to bring back Team Flakes, let me know). We gave the world the telephone, the light bulb, the Internet, the machine gun, the air conditioner, Gore-Tex, and the monster truck. But though it might have been true at one time that only in America could a boy from the wrong side of the tracks grow up to be president, that hasn't been the case in a long, long time. So why do so many people still want to believe it's true?

--Paul Waldman

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